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The Treasures of the Church (St. Luke 15.1-10)

Third Sunday after Trinity

 

“The Treasures of the Church”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar 

St. Luke 15.1-10

20 June 2021

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ✠ Christ; Amen.

Today, we hear the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, seeks and finds the lost lone sheep who strayed from the flock but was restored, and how greatly He rejoices at finding it. But the parable which follows it, the parable of the lost coin, is less often discussed. Both of these parables are related, but they aren’t saying exactly the same thing.

In the first, we have a man referred to as the actor in the parable, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep…” because the shepherd is a direct image of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. Yet in the second parable, our image is that of a woman keeping house. On the surface, it can seem a mundane and unworthy thing to occupy the annals of the greatest and most sacred Book ever written. Yet, properly interpreted, it shows us an image of exactly who we are. This woman who so yearns for that which was lost is none other than our mother, the Church, whose child we become through Baptism in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And what, or rather who, is the Church? The Church is nothing other than the sum of all believers on earth who hear the voice of their shepherd and obey Him, who hear the call of Jesus to repent and believe His gospel, to be baptized and receive forgiveness and receive His Body and Blood; this even the little children know. We children of the Church receive Jesus and all of His sayings and believe that His death was on our behalf and that it forgives every last one of our sins. And so God is our Father and the Church is our mother, mother Church, yet she is also the sum of her parts. Each one of us is not the Church by ourselves, but together, with respect to the whole, one family.

And so if we accept this interpretation of the parable, what, or rather who, are the coins that the Church pines so diligently after? Coins in that day—as they still often do in our day—had depictions of the emperor or king on them, the head of state, the face of a man. In Jesus’ day, it was Caesar. Ours have Washington or Lincoln, along with the inscription “In God We Trust.” And if you hop the border over to Canada, you’ll see the face of Queen Elizabeth the Second. On the Canadian quarter, you’ll also notice an inscription around the face in Latin, which reads: “D.G. Regina” The D and G stand for Deo Gratias, and Regina means queen, thus it reads: “By the grace of God, queen.” But what makes a coin so special? Why would this woman in our parable search so diligently for what has become practically worthless to us? Our society is growing increasingly detached from physical currency in general, and most people who see a coin on the ground have absolutely no compulsion to bother to bend over and pick it up. What is a cent to me? I must stoop down a hundred times just for one dollar, and I can’t even buy a candy bar for my efforts. But in Jesus’ day, indeed for most of history, money was valuable because it was made out of gold or silver, it had a tangible value, so a single coin here would be worth a fair amount. If this woman had ten coins, losing one would mean upsetting her entire livelihood, it would mean tightening the belt and reorganizing her priorities. And if she is a mother, that’s less income with which to feed her beloved children. Thus her search for the coins is not driven by the desire to have a little extra spending money, but out of love for her children, indeed it is as if she is searching for the child himself. It might as well have had his face plastered on it.

This past week, I have had the pleasure to lead this year’s Vacation Bible School and to work with all of our children. I can tell you, from firsthand experience, that these, my dear friends, are the treasures of the Church. These little ones are the cause of our labor—our dutiful and joyful labor—it is after them we clean our houses and pick up after every day. But there is more to this analogy than cleaning up a mess. For that which the Church is looking for is lost, and her cleaning efforts are thorough and total; she will not allow one corner, one nook or cranny or crack in the boards to go uninvestigated, no stone unturned. And how does she do it? She lights a lamp, indeed that lamp which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. That lamp is the light of the world, it is Jesus Christ Himself, and His Word. Our children must hear the Word of God, this is the only way they can be found and restored to the Church’s treasury. And I’m afraid they need far more than a week of it. In short, these little treasures must be brought to Church regularly, they must hear her voice, for Christ chooses to use her to speak to us, that is why He gives us this parable at all. Our children must be diligently taught and raised in a life of faith, a life which revolves around joining together on Sunday with their brothers and sisters in Christ and their Lord. In Baptism, they are minted by Jesus Himself, imprinted with His beloved face, with His Name around the rim, and with the inscription: “By the grace of God, a child of God, a prince of the heavenly kingdom; In Him do I trust, for I was purchased with His own blood in the year of our Lord.”

So do not neglect them, dear children of God, do not lose sight of them. It is paramount that we order our entire lives around the word of God, not just for a week in the summer, but always. We must be cautious of what we immerse our children into: if one is careless, it will be a world that is openly opposing everything that Word of God is teaching on a fundamental level. This is why we must support each other as brothers and sisters, as fathers and mothers, in the Church; and why it is a good thing that our church here is contemplating starting a school again. The world has no interest in the lamp of Christ. Having gone through the public school system my entire life I could feel it ever gradually being dimmed and blotted out. We must take the utmost care to provide a life that nurtures what is truly meet, right, and salutary, we must allow the light of God to shine on every corner of our lives.

So come to Church, bring your children, and receive the true wealth which Jesus bestows from above. For “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” and this is not just a metaphor but an understatement. The Church suffers much consternation after her own children, and she will not cease to cry to her Lord in tears day and night until she finds them. So you too are called to pray for them and with them, and don’t be afraid to get dirty: clean your house, order it that you may find time to attend to your families spiritually, order all things around the lamp of Christ’s Word. You were all once lost, but now are found. And do not give up on those of our children who have grown older and gone away. They need your prayers and your influence now more than ever, cry unto God for them without ceasing. For they are the lost ones, and they too are His joy and His all, and He will stop at nothing to reclaim them. You are all everything to us, your brothers and sisters and your mother Church. So let us be joined together, let us rejoice with the angels of God for all sinners who daily repent, for the “God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.” In Jesus’ ✠ Name; Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.

       

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